Still shining: an interview with KC of KC and the Sunshine Band
"It’s time that there was some unity."
When it comes to ranking the most successful acts of the disco era, KC and the Sunshine Band stand right alongside artists such as Donna Summer, Village People and the Bee Gees. Progenitors of the Miami sound created at TK Records in Florida, KC and the Sunshine Band had a phenomenal string of chart hits heard on the radio and in the discotheques, including “Get Down Tonight,” “That’s The Way (I Like It),” “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty,” “Boogie Shoes,” “I’m Your Boogie Man,” and “Keep It Comin’ Love,” to mention a few. The KC of the title, aka Harry Casey, co-wrote all of the hits and continues to write, record and perform to this day. His latest release, the single “We Belong Together,” may be of special interest to his LGBT fans. The artwork for the track features images of three couples, one mixed gender and two same gender. Additionally, the track, a collaboration with StoneBridge, is something of a departure from KC’s trademark sound, going more for a modern EDM style. I had the pleasure of speaking with KC about the track and much more in August 2016.
Gregg Shapiro: How did Harry Casey come to be known as KC?
KC: That’s an interesting question. There are a couple of variables to that. I worked at a record store and the prefix for Columbia Records was a K and a C. When I decided to make the first record, I didn’t want to put my name, Harry Casey, on it, because I thought I may not have any anonymity.
GS: Would you say it was a pseudonym that also made reference to your last name Casey?
KC: Correct. I thought, I’ll just be KC because it sounded like Casey. That’s how it happened actually.
GS: Are there distinct differences between KC and Harry Casey?
KC: Absolutely! KC’s this very famous guy [laughs] who wrote and recorded some amazing songs. Harry Casey is just this normal guy who likes to enjoy life.
GS: KC and the Sunshine Band are synonymous with what I would describe as the TK Records/Florida disco sound. How would you define the difference between the Florida style of disco and, say, Giorgio Moroder’s Eurodisco sound that was also popular in the formative days of dance music?
KC: I think our sound was rawer, whereas his sound was more programmed. That would be the biggest difference. The Miami sound became a more natural sound.
GS: It was more organic because you were using regular instrumentation, in addition to synthesizers.
KC: Yes, that’s correct.
GS: How many of the original Sunshine Band members are still Sunshine Band members today?
KC: There’s only one person who played on the original record who still tours with me and that’s the percussionist.
GS: One of the most distinguishing factors of the new KC and the Sunshine Band single “We Belong Together,” is the track’s modern electronic dance music sound. How did you come to work with producer StoneBridge?
KC: StoneBridge did a remix for me of the original version. The original version was actually recorded by my namesake. My best friend Larry, his son who he named after me, is a DJ in Miami. He was on the radio and now he does clubs. He brought me this track and he and I did the lyrics (I did the majority), and I did the melody and stuff. I then sent it to StoneBridge.
GS: What was it like for you to hear a song that you wrote transformed in that way?
KC: It’s always interesting. We have 17 different mixes of the song right now. We have one by Tony Moran and one by Ralphi Rosario, both of whom are very big DJs. Julian Marsh, too. My nephew did a remix. Also DJ Laszlo, who has had some number one dance records with Justin Bieber. It’s very interesting to hear their take on the track. It’s really exciting, actually.
GS: Does the single mean that there is a new full-length album forthcoming, and if so, will it be in keeping with the new sound of the single?
KC: That’s a good question because the album, which is pretty much sitting in the can, has a mixture of that new sound, some funkier numbers that I did with the band, some mid-tempo stuff and some ballad. I may end up putting out this full-length dance record or do a double set where half of it is funk and the other half is dance. I don’t know.
GS: That would be cool because you haven’t done anything like that before.
KC: That’s correct.
GS: The cover image of the “We Belong Together” single is a circle divided into three sections featuring drawings of three couples. There is a male couple, a female couple and a mixed gender couple.
KC: When I wrote this song it was about a relationship that I felt I wanted to have with someone. I felt like the two of us belonged together. With everything going on, it felt like the social events redirected the entire message. It seemed appropriate – the song’s about two people being together. You can’t isolate the fact that it’s just a man and a woman. There are guys who want to be together, there are woman who want to be together, and there and men and women who want to be together. I felt it should encompass everybody. It’s time that there was some unity. After what happened in Orlando and what’s happening worldwide. There’s so much hate and craziness. I felt like it was time to say, “Enough already!. We all need to accept everyone. People have the right to love who they love and nobody should have anything to say about it!”
GS: Yes, that’s true. From the early days of disco through the present day, people were guaranteed to hear dance music being played in gay clubs. Were you aware of KC and the Sunshine Band songs being played in gay clubs?
GS: Were you aware of a gay following for the band as well?
KC: I don’t know if I felt that as much. I would hope that everyone likes my music. My music was made with everyone in mind with no prejudice towards anyone. I would hope that everyone would embrace our music. It’s constructed for everyone. I’ve been to many gay and straight clubs and I have fun in every one of them. It’s always great to hear my music played and to be there with everyone.
GS: With what you just said in mind, as well as the new song, could you ever see KC and the Sunshine Band performing at a Pride Festival?
KC: I don’t think we’ve ever been invited. We definitely wouldn’t turn it down. We’ve never been asked that I know of. If everything was in order, I would definitely perform there.
GS: Finally, you mentioned Orlando. As someone closely associated with Florida, can you please say a few words about the Orlando tragedy?
KC: I think we all felt it. I think we all cried for it. I think it finally opened a lot of people’s eyes, more than they had been. It let people know that people in the gay community are real people too. They have lives and families and friends. They do normal things. They were viciously attacked. It could happen to anyone. I think it opened the eyes of a lot of close-minded people. Unfortunately, it took a tragedy like that to do that. I’ve been getting some backlash about the artwork for the record. I really don’t care. I’ve made comments on Facebook about it. Everyone has the right to love and worship whoever and whatever they want to. It’s nobody’s business but theirs. We are not the ones to judge that. I expected that to happen, but I don’t care. If people are that close-minded, I feel pity for them and I have compassion for them.